Ok, not lost, but the lyric feels appropriate.
After all the stories I’ve told about hitching and relying on the kindness of strangers, it surprises me that I’d forgotten this story entirely until Saturday’s particularly gorgeous moonrise brought it back.
I was in Nuoro, in Sardinia, and got the idea to take a day trip to another town. According to my guide book, this other, smaller, town was supposed to have some attractive sight to see. I left my hotel, walked to the station, bought a round trip ticket, caught my train. We passed a lot of green scenery. We passed a train headed back the way we’d come. We passed more green scenery. We arrived at our destination.
I went to check the return schedule so I’d know how much time I had for the local attraction(s?) … and I learned that the train we’d passed was the only train back. Yes. One train going and one train coming. And they ran at. the. same. time! Who would make a schedule like that? What tour book would suggest a day trip to a town from which you cannot return on the same day? I’m just saying.
The woman at the ticket window asked what I would do.
“Walk,” I said.
Was there another choice? I didn’t have money for a hotel (I was only supposed to be in town a few hours). Besides, my passport was locked up in the hotel safe in Nuoro, and I couldn’t check in without it. I didn’t explain this to the woman because I had even less Italian than I had money. I did, however, get directions from her to put me on the road back to Nuoro — not a highway, just a winding country road.
I love walking. Even now, with my bad knees, I love walking. And I can keep a good pace, too.¹ Back then, pre-knee injury, I was an even better walker. Still, I had a LONG walk ahead, maybe fifty miles. So I didn’t bother with ‘attractions.’ I started walking. Not crazy-fast, maybe 3mph, so I wouldn’t tire too quickly.
It was about 3:30. (Yes, the only train of the day arrived in the middle of the afternoon!) At that pace, I’d roll into Nuoro — maybe literally — at about 8am, just in time for the hotel to open for the day. After I’d been walking a couple of hours, I thought about nightfall and how I’d be on that empty road, alone, all night. But I was literally in the middle of nowhere by then, so I just had to keep going.
Ok, yes. At dusk, I got scared. I’d taken my directions in a language I didn’t speak, after all, so I wasn’t entirely sure I was on the right road, and there were no signs to give me a clue. There was no one out and about. I think one car passed me after sunset. I stopped a couple of times at forks in the road, calling on divine intervention to choose the right path.
When it was full, moonless dark, I was resigned. There was no way I would survive my little adventure, no way I could be on the right road, no way I could walk 50 miles by morning. I thought about crying, but there didn’t seem to be a point. The only option was to keep walking.
A pickup pulled over. The driver asked what I was doing. I told him about the whole sight-seeing-day-trip plan gone awry. He looked out at the road and then back at me. He explained that he was going to work but could drive me a little way if I wanted.
I had never hitched before. Yes, this is before all those other stories. I was afraid to get in the truck, but I was more afraid to stay on the road, so I got in.
He said that he only needed to drop off something at work, so if I wanted to wait, he’d drive me all the way. (Result!) I agreed without even thinking about it. Then, when we drove away from his job, he said we’d have to go to his house so he could take a shower before the drive to Nuoro. Oh. Well … ok. (Yes, he might have had some idea for how the story would go … an idea that wouldn’t involve me being foolish enough to think he had any intention of driving to Nuoro. But this is me we’re talking about: foolishly trusting to the end.)
We drove to his house. He set me up in front of the TV (strange variety show where the interlude between each segment was the video of We Are Family… srsly). I got comfortable, wrote in my journal, watched Sister Sledge. He came out of the shower, and I said I was ready to go.
So we left. Just like that. (Snap of fingers.) He seemed a little dazed, but didn’t fuss. We got in his car — the pickup was for work — and he proceeded to drive like a maniac. He drove at heart-in-my-throat speed around crazy, hair-pins turns. Made me wish I’d stayed on the road so I could die some slow, quiet death instead of the head-on-collision-with-the-rock-face death he seemed to have in store for us both.
And then we were in Nuoro. Somehow I found the hotel and he sat in the car while I rang the bell repeatedly until the clerk came down and let me in. I took a shower, I said a very sincere prayer of thanks … and I slept so well.
is hosted by Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers.
¹ Note to Fox: No, I would not win that race.